Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Integration of a Community Pharmacy Simulation Program into a Therapeutics Course

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Integration of a Community Pharmacy Simulation Program into a Therapeutics Course

Article excerpt


The integration and application of knowledge to solve medication-related problems is a critical skill for pharmacists. (1) One easy approach to help pharmacy students practice this skill is case-based teaching which commonly uses patient cases prepared in paper format (and sometimes also projected on a screen). (2-6) However, unlike an authentic pharmacy practice experience, paper-based cases do not require students to gather and summarize all relevant patient-specific information on their own. Branched, or "choose your own adventure-style" cases in which students are supplied patient information in stages may be more realistic but can still provide too much information up front as compared to actual practice. (7)

Computer simulation can help to overcome this limitation as they offer an environment where students can solve problems as they would in actual practice--by seeking information from the patient and/or the medical record in real time and responding accordingly. (8) An additional advantage of computer simulations, particularly for novice learners, is that they allow students to practice exercises multiple times without the risk of causing harm to a patient. Furthermore, they offer individualized learning opportunities and the potential for immediate feedback. This deliberate practice with immediate feedback can facilitate student development of skills and knowledge application to solve complex therapeutic problems. Finally, simulation can be used to integrate a curriculum, as more complex cases can incorporate concepts from multiple courses and disciplines.

MyDispense is an example of such a simulation program. This software, developed by the faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, simulates community pharmacy practice. In MyDispense, the student functions as a pharmacist to evaluate, verify, and dispense a prescription as if the student were in an actual community pharmacy. (9) The program can provide an opportunity for repetitive and deliberate practice with immediate feedback. As of September 2016, it has been adopted by 18 pharmacy schools within the United States and 28 schools internationally to help students develop competency in community pharmacy practice. Since 2014, the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Pharmacy has used MyDispense as a teaching and assessment tool in the curriculum, both in the classroom (primarily in a Law & Ethics course) and to satisfy up to 50 hours of introductory pharmacy practice experiences (IPPEs).

In pharmacy practice, solving a therapeutic problem requires critical evaluation and verification of a prescription based on relevant, patient-specific information. Although we typically include case-based clinical decision-making activities in our therapeutics courses, these only rarely include the practical component of seeking information, practical decision-making, and selection/labeling of a specific product. Since MyDispense simulates these exact community pharmacy operations, we sought to see if it would add value to our second-year therapeutics curriculum. The objectives of this study were to demonstrate the feasibility of integrating MyDispense into a Therapeutics course, and evaluate the effectiveness of using MyDispense on student learning.


Therapeutics II is one of four therapeutics courses in the UCSF doctor of pharmacy curriculum. The course spans the treatment and management of common cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes mellitus and is required for all second year pharmacy students. Therapeutics II employs a flipped classroom model whereby discussion of patient cases takes place during class time, after students have reviewed a pre-recorded lecture and taken an online quiz in preparation. The course runs for 10 weeks and written assessments are administered during weeks 5 and 10. …

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